How to be an involved 4-H parent in 10 easy steps – Step 8: Make 4-H a family activity

Your child has joined a 4-H club, now what? Try these tips to help make your 4-H experience a family activity.

Let’s start by clarifying there is no such thing as “easy” when it comes to being a parent. Parents play an important role in 4-H programs by supporting and encouraging their child throughout the 4-H experience, in much the same way they would advocate for the child through school, sports or other activities. Being an informed and supporting parent can enhance your child’s 4-H experience to ensure they receive maximum benefit from the program. This article is part of a series that will provide a number of tips for 4-H families to bolster their 4-H experience and apply the 4-H motto, “To make the best better.”

Step 8: Make 4-H a family activity

Through your family’s 4-H experiences so far, you may have recognized a few common themes that are core to the 4-H program: 4-H programs provide learning, 4-H members do volunteer service and 4-H programs are fun. You may have also noticed 4-H can take up a portion of your family’s time.

Have you considered making 4-H an activity you do as a family? Making 4-H a family activity will not only help your child’s development, but may also help strengthen your family.

Michigan State University Extension has published a number of articles highlighting the six characteristics of a strong family, as identified in the University of Nebraska’s “Family Strengths Research Project:”

These articles, in addition to “Spending quality family time together is very important,” acknowledge the importance of families spending time together. These articles give a few examples of quality family activities.

The 4-H program was founded on the basis of young people learning and experimenting with new agricultural techniques, which were later adopted by their parents. As we progress into the rapid changing technologies we face today, young people are still at the forefront of early adoption with older generations lagging behind. Making 4-H part of your family’s quality time can provide an opportunity for you to enjoy hands-on learning experiences with your child. Your willingness to learn together sends a strong message to your child that learning is a life-long process.

Another 4-H activity you could pursue as a family to set a positive example is volunteering. When you volunteer your time and talents as a family, it helps your child understand the importance of being a contributor toward a healthy community and instills a deep-rooted culture of volunteerism.

The MSU Extension article, “Three critical life skills children can gain through family volunteering experiences,” describes skills you can help your child gain through the experience. The Points of Light organization provides additional information on the benefits of volunteering and resources to help you plan your family’s volunteer effort, including participating in Family Volunteer Day, which occurs this year on Nov. 18, 2017.

Your family’s 4-H journey can provide your child with an unlimited number of learning encounters. Whether your journey is just getting underway or if your family has been involved in 4-H for years, you are likely to find something new to learn and experience at every step along the way. You will find there are people along the path to help guide you, but ultimately the path of your family’s 4-H expedition will be individually determined.

For more in this series

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